online book
Xavier Timoteo Martinez
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Mexican War
World War II
Chicano Movement

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Mexican Americans in California:

Cottage Hotel Site
Oxnard, Ventura County

In California labor history, and farm labor history specifically, as well as in the history of race relations, the site of the Cottage Hotel represents a particularly significant milestone. The Cottage Hotel was the headquarters of the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association, the first important agricultural workers' union in California.

Organized by Japanese and Mexican farm laborers and labor contractors in Oxnard in 1903, the JMLA represented the first time that different racial minority workers joined together in union organizing and struck successfully against agribusiness, the state's most important industry. It was not until the late 1920s and the 1930s that any agricultural labor union as important as the JMLA was again organized in California.

The JMLA-led strike, portending future farm labor struggles, revealed all of the elements characteristic of the conflict in the effort to organize California's farmworkers. The now-classic pattern of resistance by agribusiness to unionization of farm labor; the violence and loss of life; the anti-farm labor alliance among agribusiness, local law enforcement agencies, the courts, and the press; and neglect by the organized labor movement were all present at Oxnard.

In a violent confrontation March 23, 1903, two Mexican and two Japanese laborers were wounded, and 21-year-old Luis Vasquez was killed. An inquest into the death blamed the violence and shooting on the strikers, although witness after witness testified that armed Anglo farmers shot into the crowd.

While the JMLA won its demands, the victory was short-lived. The JMLA was not able to consolidate its gains. The hostility of agribusiness, the refusal of Samuel Gompers to grant an AFL charter to the JMLA unless it dropped its Japanese members, and the seasonal nature of agricultural labor all contributed to its demise.

The Mexican members vehemently refused Gompers' demand to drop the Japanese members in exchange for an AFL charter. Despite its failure, the JMLA made the first significant inroads into unionization of farm laborers and laid the basis for collective action among racial minorities in California.

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Last Modified: Wed, Nov 17 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

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